Mirror Online: LONDON, UK – Health secretary Matt Hancock said people from different households will not be allowed to meet inside from midnight tonight in Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire

Matt Hancock has banned people from different households from meeting up indoors in parts of northern England as part of a tightening of lockdown measures.

New restrictions have been imposed in parts of northern England -Image: REUTERS

The Heath Secretary said the new measures affecting millions of people in Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire would come in at midnight.

He said he was taking the action with “a heavy heart” but increases in the rates of coronavirus in these areas had forced the Government to act.

In chaotic scenes, the shock ban on household visits was announced only hours before the new rules came in.

And no official full guidance had been published on Thursday night, leaving millions in the dark about what the changes mean.

People will be unable to mix in private homes but can still go to pubs and restaurants as long as they only go with members of their own household.

Gardens are understood to be off-limits – but you can meet other households in parks and outdoor spaces.

Mr Hancock made the announcement after lengthy meetings with local leaders on Thursday.

He told Sky News: “We have been looking at the data and unfortunately we’ve seen across parts of northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.”

“We’ve decided that we need to take action across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.

“So from midnight tonight, we are banning households meeting up indoors.

“We take this action with a heavy heart but unfortunately it is necessary to keep the country safe.”

The new restrictions apply to Greater Manchester, as well as a number of places in East Lancashire – Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale.

In West Yorkshire, Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale are affected.

Leicester is also affected, which has been under a local lockdown since June 29.

Mr Hancock said increase in coronavirus cases had been partly sparked by people meeting up indoors and “not abiding by the social distancing rules”.

He said: “We are having to bring in firm action and say that two households cannot meet indoors because that way we can help to stop the spread of the virus.

“We’ve got to bring this in straightaway because we could see those numbers increasing and we need to keep control of this virus.”

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, said there had been a “marked change in the picture” in recent days regarding the spread of coronavirus.

He said: “We have gone from a falling rate of cases in nearly all of our boroughs last week to a rising rate in nine out of ten affecting communities across a much wider geography. In Rochdale, the one borough where cases have fallen, they are still too high.

“We have always said that we will remain vigilant and be ready to respond quickly should the need arise.

“In line with that approach, I have agreed with the Health Secretary that it is right to act on the precautionary principle and introduce modest measures now to bring down the rate of new infections.”

He appealed to residents to follow the rules, urging people to not “act selfishly” and to keep the health of others in mind.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: “Told tonight this applies to homes AND gardens but you can still visit public spaces where social distancing measures are in place.

“People will have a lot of questions and we are pressing for more information quickly. It is really hard but please follow advice and stay safe.”